Today is the last day of the semester, and yesterday was a farewell party (of sorts) for one of my classes. We all had to bring food, and while most people brought doritos or out-of-the-box brownies (which were really chewy, and not in a good way), I decided to make somewhat of a meal.
I called it paella, even though it bares little resemblance to an authentic paella. Especially since I made it in less than an hour right before class. Perhaps I should call this “chicken and rice,” rather than paella.
Excuse this, but I have to: Someone in my class took it upon themselves to remind me that paella is usually made with seafood. So, I returned the advice (?) by telling her that when there is a meat involved, paella is traditionally made with rabbit (or chicken, or really, whatever you have on hand…as paella is what would be called a “peasant dish” because any and all ingredients available go into it). This only provoked another snarky comment regarding the paella she had when she was in Spain, and I resolved to let her rant because it clearly made her feel better to put down the food that I busted my ass to make before class. I just want to say, I know what I made isn’t authentic paella, but I did put effort into what I brought. I left work an hour early to make it. When she learns how to make proper, not-soggy deviled eggs (they were so soggy, they fell apart..no exaggeration), she can come to me with paella instructions.
Now that that little story is out of the way, I’d have to say that the chicken and rice came out pretty well. The chicken was especially flavorful because I threw it in a marinade the night before. It involved red wine vinegar, cilantro, bay leaves, pepper and lots of paprika. What the exact proportions of all the ingredients were, I’ll never know. If you want to make an authentic paella, I advise you to go here. It is the most authentic recipe I’ve yet to find, and I’ve been searching for months. I really ought to invest in a paella pan…perhaps I’ll add that to my ever-growing summer “to do” list.
Anyway, that takes care of my chicken and rice inventory. Now, all I have left in the freezer are some miscellaneous berries, two chicken drumsticks, and two pork chops. Plus an assortment of leftover pork, “paella,” and spanakoptia. Will this tide me over until Monday night? Perhaps, especially since I need to use up the last of my spaghetti. It will be interesting…
Good evening, everyone.
As many of you probably know, waiting for rice to cook when you’re really quite hungry is well, excruciating.
I often find myself standing over the pot, staring into its glass lid scrutinizing the dark, boiling water for evidence of absorption. This is, of course, a futile process. As I pace back to my computer, feigning preoccupation, I find myself getting up to check the progress (or lack thereof) of my rice almost as quickly as I sat down at my desk. Sigh. Note to self: start buying white rice; it cooks way faster. In what feels like 45 minutes, 3 have managed to pass. It is only when I find myself beginning to consider the virtues of eating very al dente rice that I even pry myself away from the stove.
And that was the beginning of my tahdig with lavash venture. This is my second tahdig attempt; the first was with potato slices. I was not enthusiastic about how tahdig #1 came out, and so I persisted in using lavash. Lavash, on its own, is fantastic. Better than tortillas, I’d argue. Although, maybe not. It’s all contextual, really.
And there it is, people. My first successful tahdig. The lavash became so damn crunchy, I cut into it like a pie.
So, how did this happen without totally burning to a crisp? Here’s what I did after cooking the rice:
In a medium saucepan, dump in 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil along with 1 tablespoon of saffron water. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine the olive oil and water as best as you possibly can. Cover the bottom with the lavash. You can do either one or two layers, I did one. Put the cooked rice on top of the lavash, cover and cook.
This can happen in a few ways. You can cook it over low heat for about 45 minutes to an hour, or if you’re impatient (as I was), you can cook this over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes. My advice to you: let some of the lavash come up the sides so you can take a fork and pull it back to check its level of doneness. This is probably cheating, probably a little unorthodox, but for your first time I’d say go for it. You need to be able to gauge how done it gets over time.
When it’s done, take a plate big enough to fit over the saucepan, and put it over the pan. Flip the pan so the tahdig is on the plate, and you’ve got something awesome.
Tomorrow night, I am going to a cooking demonstration with Judith Jones. For those of you who don’t know, Judith Jones was the editor of Julia Child’s most famous cook book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The subject of the demonstration is cooking for one, something I’ve grown quite fond of. I will, of course, take tons of pictures!
Good evening everyone.
I begin the new month with an experimentation, of sorts. I tried my hand at jujeh kebab and tahdig.
For those unfamiliar with Persian cuisine, jujeh kebab is essentially marinaded chicken, skewered and grilled. Unfortunately, I don’t have an actual grill. I do have a George Foreman grill, though! Yeah, it’s not the same at all. There’s no charred, smokey flavor. There’s no real grill marks. But, it is compact and efficient and I use it to grill my sandwiches almost every day.
Tahdig is actually less a food and more a product of cooking rice in a certain way. After cooking the rice, you let it sit in the pan for about an hour so it forms a delicious crust on the bottom. Usually basmati rice is used for this. I love crusty rice, particularly with paella. There are a few different types of tahdig, and I chose to make mine with potato slices.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any basmati or long grain, white rice around. So, I had to use brown rice. Either this negatively affected my dish, or perhaps I added too much olive oil to the bottom of the pan. Either way, the rice did not have as much of a crust as I had hoped for, and I had it on the stove for nearly an hour over low heat (to prevent burning). It was good, don’t get me wrong, I would have just preferred a thicker crust.
Jujeh kebab adapted from here
1 chicken thigh
1 cup greek yogurt (i recommend either fage or chobani. if you don’t have greek yogurt, take plain yogurt and place it in some cheesecloth. either hang this over a bowl or place it in a strainer that fits over a bowl. strain for 3 hours in the refrigerator, and you’ve got greek yogurt)
3 or so TBSP turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 a lime
1. in a bowl, combine the yogurt, turmeric, salt, pepper, and lime juice. combine well. it should be a nice yellow color. put the chicken in the bowl, toss to coat. either cover this with plastic wrap and put that in the refrigerator, or place this mix into a ziploc bag, squish it around, and then place it in the refrigerator. your call. let this marinade over night.
2. you can do any of the following: grill the chicken on an outdoor grill, grill it on your george foreman, bake it, or broil the chicken. i leave that to you. i did mine on the george foreman grill set to medium heat for about 10 minutes.
The chicken was very flavorful. I will never understand why people snub their noses at turmeric by calling it the poor man’s saffron. Saffron = yellow, but tasteless. It comes from a pretty flower, though. Anyway, the squeeze of lime really brightens the chicken quite a lot. It blends well with the tang of the yogurt. It’d be EVEN better on a real grill, but I digress.
Tahdig with Potato adapted from here
1 cup cooked basmati rice
1 gold potato, chopped into 1/4 inch rounds
1 TBSP saffron water (steep the saffron in hot water until the water is golden)
1. in a medium saucepan, add 2 TBSP olive oil. add the saffron water and some salt, stir to combine.
2. place the potato rounds on the bottom of the saucepan. lay the rice over this, and cook for about an hour on low heat. if you get impatient, crank it up to medium for the last 15-30 minutes or so.
The other bummer about brown rice is that you can’t really see the little bit of crust that did manage to take form. The rice was good, and the potatoes were nice and crunchy. Next time, I will definitely be using basmati rice and I am going to try and make the tahdig with bread instead of potatoes. I must conquer this.
Tomorrow? Braised oxtails!
Good evening, everyone.
Tonight, as promised, I made Golabki. Essentially, stuffed cabbage. Although I don’t recall ever having stuffed cabbage often when I was a kid, I did have some this past summer at a Polish restaurant. Unfortunately, I don’t really remember how it tasted (couldn’t have been too great…). That place ended up being a sorry excuse for a restaurant.
Admittedly, I found the stuffing of the cabbage a little daunting at first, and wasn’t sure just how it would turn out. However, despite my initial fear, things turned out really well. By far, one of my favorite recipes. The preparation is a little involved, but once you have the leaves stuffed, you can pretty much let them go for about an hour. Plus, I finally put my homemade chicken stock to good use! They come out so tender, so flavorful, and are ridiculously satisfying.
I managed to eat three of these, but I had no side accompaniment. What does one serve with stuffed cabbage? I’m not sure. It’s really rather an all-in-one dish. If anyone out there knows the answer to this, let me know. Inspiration for this recipe was found here.
8 or 9 leaves of 1 small cabbage
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup white rice
1 egg beaten
1-2 TBSP tomato paste
1 cup chicken or beef stock
2 TBSP butter
1 can diced tomatoes
2 TBSP flour
salt & pepper
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
As always, chop, mince, peel, etc. everything first. Get everything organized. It helps, I promise.
Fill a large stock pot with water and set it over high heat. Place the cabbage leaves in the pot once the water beings to boil, and cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until tender. Take the leaves out using a slotted spoon, and place in a colander. DO NOT DISCARD ALL OF THE WATER. It’s full of cabbagey goodness and you WANT THAT FLAVOR. Reserve at least half of it.
If you’re using white rice, you can skip cooking it. If, however, you are using brown rice, you may want to at least parboil it. Now would be a good time for that while your cabbage cooks.
Put some oil in a pan and sautee your onions until they’re translucent. You can cook them until they’re caramelized if you want, also.
Beat your egg, mix it in with the ground beef. Put your onions and rice in the mix as well, along with a generous amount of salt and pepper.
At this point, you’ve drained and cooled your cabbage leaves. So, lay a leaf out. spoon about 2-3 TBSP of the mix onto the flimsy end of the leaf. NOT the stiffer end that was connected to the core. Roll the leaf, tucking in the sides as you go along. Place the roll seam side down on a plate or baking sheet — something flat. Do this with the rest of your leaves.
Place your leaves, seam side down, in that stock pot with the cabbage water. Add 1 cup of chicken or beef stock at this point, too. Let this simmer, uncovered, for about 45-60 minutes. You can skim the fat off the top every once and a while.
>>As for the sauce….you’re going to be making a roux so it has a nice thick base. If you don’t want your sauce to be thick, then skip out on this butter and flour step.
Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, and WHISK WHISK WHISK WHISK. DO NOT STOP WHISKING. You want it to reach a peanutty brown color. If you’ve done this before or are just daring, you can make a darker roux. Add the canned tomatoes, some water if you think it’s too dry, the garlic, the tomato paste, and some pepper. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
And there you have it. Some nice stuffed cabbage. So tender….so melt in your mouth….sooo good. And I’m told they’re even better the next day.
Happy Monday, and happy February, everyone.
On tonight’s menu: Chicken Biryani.
For those that just said, “chicken whaaaat?” allow me to explain. Every culture has its staple meat and rice dish, whether it’s paella, jumbalaya, or well, biryani.
Chicken biryani is a prolific chicken and rice dish that can be found in some form from Iran to Malaysia. However, it is most commonly associated with India. A simple blend of spices, garlic and onions make this dish exactly what it is: delicious. It’s comforting, it’s classic, and it’s prized.
As with most staple dishes, everyone cooks it differently. I cannot remember where I got this recipe from, so if it’s not very traditional or authentic, I apologize in advance. This dish takes patience, but your efforts will surely be rewarded. Inspiration for this dish was taken from here.
For the chicken:
4-5 chicken thighs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp oil
For the rice:
3 quarts water
1 tsp salt
10 cardamom pods crushed
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
2 cups basmati rice
For the onion mixture:
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 serrano chiles, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp salt
For the presentation:
saffron, some mint & cilantro
Before you begin, add some saffron to some hot water. Let it soak until you use it.
1. For the chicken: mash the garlic, salt, ginger, garam masala, pepper, and oil into a paste. Coat the chicken pieces with it. You may find you need more of this mix for your chicken.
2. In a deep pot, add water, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, and the bay leaf. Cover, bring to simmer on medium-low heat.
3. Heat a large pan over medium-high. Add some oil, then add the chicken. Sautee until brown (about 3 minutes), then flip to brown the other side.
4. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the onions and sautee until they are a dark brown. Then, add the chiles, garlic, garam masala, ginger, and salt. Cook until fragrant. Remove from heat, set aside.
5. Turn the heat for the water up and bring to a boil. Add the rice and cook for 5 minutes. Drain reserving 1-1 1/2 cups of the liquid.
6. Put half of the rice into a large pot. Sprinkle some of the saffron water over the rice. Add some mint and cilantro here, too. Spread half the onion mix over this, and put the chicken on top of that. Cover this with the rest of the rice, then the rest of the onions. Top with the rest of the mint, cilantro, saffron. Pour some of your reserved liquid over top as well.
7. Cover and cook for 30-45 minutes.
It comes out wonderfully, trust me. This recipe is, of course, for 4 people. I altered it to fit it for 2 people, but no alterations are worth noting as I followed the recipe pretty exactly. As you can see, I did not have basmati rice (which I wasn’t happy about, but oh well). I added some turmeric when I was sprinkling the saffron water on the rice. I think it adds another level of flavor, plus it kicks the yellow color up.
So, three great days of cooking in a row. It cannot be! Usually an unsatisfying recipe gets in the way. I’ll be taking the next two nights off from cooking, but Thursday I’ll be back with a good pasta dish.
Until Thursday –